|The Role of Fats|
Essential Fatty Acids
Evening Primrose Facts
Other Website Resources
Flaxseeds are a rich source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, dietary fiber, and vitamins and minerals. They have distinct benefits in both their forms—pressed into oil and as ground flaxseed.
Featuring concentrated amounts of Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), flaxseed oil is nature’s greatest vegetarian source of vegetarian Omega-3 Fatty Acids. ALA is called an esssential fatty acid because it is vital to our health and since our bodies cannot produce it on their own, it is essential that we receive it from dietary sources.
ALA plays an important role in the health of our hearts. Several studies have suggested that consumption of dietary ALA may reduce the risk of heart disease and promote overall heart health.
Ground Flaxseed is a natural source of fiber (including mucilage), absorbing excess liquid, protecting the digestive tract and promoting bowel regularity. While the oil pressed from flaxseed is rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, the seeds themselves are also a concentrated source of lignans - phytoestrogens that are not only suggested to be able to regulate hormone balance but which also have have antioxidant properties.
Flaxseed has been a coveted source of health for millennia. Ancient Egyptians and Greek physicians like Hippocrates touted its ability to cure various ills. In the 8th century A.D., King Charlemagne thought flax so essential to health that he wrote a series of laws requiring his subjects to consume a certain amount each year.
In more recent centuries, classic herbal medicine texts note that flaxseed oil has been used to relieve gastro-intestinal pains and infections, colic and hemorrhoids. Applied topically, flaxseed oil was mixed with calcium oxide to use on burns, and blended with honey to remove facial spots. The seeds themselves have been used for a bevy of ailments—from alleviating constipation to treating coughs, colds, respiratory infections and urinary tract infections.
Lignans are phytoestrogens found in high fiber foods such as cereals, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Researchers have found flaxseeds to be the richest source of plant lignans, with a lignan content 100-times higher than its nearest competitor, oat bran. Once ingested, lignans have both an estrogen and anti-estrogen-like effect, similar to soy. Scientists believe the effects of lignans on estrogen metabolism, in addition to their antioxidant and fiber properties, may explain why populations eating diets rich in lignans have a lower incidence of cancer. Other studies indicate flax lignans reduce cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and diabetes in animals. Clinical studies are currently underway to see if the same effects apply to humans.
Flaxseed and You
For maximum benefit to your overall health, we recommend supplementing your diet with both flaxseed oil and ground flaxseed.
Take at least 1 tablespoon of Flaxseed Oil daily per 100 pounds of body weight for Omega-3 fatty acid benefit.
Take at least 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per 100 pounds of body weight for fiber and lignan benefit.
Links to Heath Benefits
Possible Drug Interactions and Contraindications for Flaxseeds
Intestinal bacteria play a vital role in the bioavailability of lignans. Therefore, the use of antibiotic drugs, which greatly reduces the viability of intestinal bacteria, can curtail the production and absorption of the mammalian lignans, enterodiol and enterolactone, which are normally produced in the body from flaxseeds’ plant lignans (1, 2). Enterodiol and enterolactone are compounds that exert estrogen-modulating effects. The Commission E Monograph on flaxseeds notes that similar to other mucilages, flaxseeds may decrease the absorption of certain medications (3). It is important to drink adequate amounts of water when consuming flaxseeds.
Please remember that each individual is unique and dietary and health care changes should be tailored to your specific conditions, circumstances and body type. We recommend that you consult with your health care practitioner whenever embarking upon a new health care regime or when significantly altering or supplementing your diet.
If you are pregnant or lactating, please consult with your health care practitioner.
1. Adlercreutz H, Mazur W. Phyto-oestrogens and Western diseases. Ann Med 1997;29(2):95-120.
2. 2. Tarpila S, Aro A, Salminen I, Tarpila A, Kleemola P, Akkila J et al. The effect of flaxseed supplementation in processed foods on serum fatty acids and enterolactone. Eur J Clin Nutr 2002;56(2):157-65.
3. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs.